Caritas welcomes additional support for regional COVID-19 response and recovery

15 Oct 2020

By The Record

A woman impacted by COVID-19 in Bangladesh. Photo Caritas Bangladesh.

Caritas Australia welcomes the government’s announcement in last week’s federal budget that Australia will increase economic support for COVID-19 response and recovery in its region by $304.7 million over the next two years.

This one-off increase in support to the Pacific and Timor-Leste comes at a crucial moment, as the impacts of COVID-19 are likely to push an additional 533 million people into poverty this year, marking the first increase in global poverty rates in over 20 years.

Caritas Australia Chief Executive Kirsty Robertson said its ground team had seen first-hand the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on marginalised communities whom it worked with.

“[We] welcome this commitment as an important step to ensure that our vulnerable neighbours are supported through this crisis,” Ms Robertson said.

However, Caritas Australia is deeply concerned that the government has cut aid to other countries in South and West Asia, Africa and the Middle East – countries where the current circumstances are dire.

“This means that vulnerable communities in countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh may not receive the support they need to respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Robertson added.

“COVID-19 has changed the world for everyone, and our global neighbours are suffering – economically and socially – on top of already great challenges.”

Ms Robertson said Pope Francis, in the papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti released earlier this month, called for the international community to no longer think “in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’ but only ‘us'”.

“The additional support for some of Australia’s most vulnerable neighbours is an important step towards this goal.

“But it is vital that these efforts are sustained, as long-term support is needed for the slow recovery from COVID-19,” Ms Robertson concluded.

Caritas Australia is a member of Caritas Internationalis, one of the world’s largest humanitarian networks in the world with 169 agencies operating in over 200 countries and territories.